IEC joins groups calling on DOT to prioritize transit plan
on Thursday, July 2, 2020
DOT proposal falls short in offering solutions to serve Iowa needs
DES MOINES -- The American Heart Association, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, Street Collective, and Urban Ambassadors yesterday submitted joint comments on the Iowa Department of Transportation’s proposed Public Transit Long-Range Plan. The Plan is intended to replace the state's 21-year-old Iowa In Motion Transit Plan, which was adopted in 1999. The new plan uses 2030 and 2050 as planning horizon benchmarks.
"Urban Ambassadors is proud to participate in the development of the DOT's Long-Range Public Transit Plan. Getting the state's transit planning right is critical to promoting a healthy environment and advancing social equity and economic prosperity in the state of Iowa,” said Christopher Bondi, Board Member with Urban Ambassadors.
The groups’ joint comments focused on the Plan’s failure to deliver on real solutions for providing adequate transit access for Iowans who need it.
“In this plan the Iowa DOT has done a good job defining the problem: a lack of allocation of transportation funds to public transit,” said Mike Armstrong, Director of Planning and Communications with the Street Collective. “Unfortunately what the plan does not offer is solutions. If the DOT does not hold transit up as a priority in its own transit plan, then there is no expectation that the needs identified will be addressed.”
The groups highlighted transit’s role in serving Iowa’s aging population and helping older Iowans continue to live safe, independent, and socially-connected lives. Transit is a safety necessity for older Iowans who may not be capable of safe driving but lack other options. This is a concern across the state as 41% of Iowans over the age of 65 live in rural areas.
The group's comments also highlighted health implications linked to transit access, including the health benefits of more active transportation options and risks related to air pollution from the transportation sector.
“Continuing to make large investments in road expansion while leaving transit severely underfunded will only exacerbate Iowa’s already high rate of obesity and drive up exposure to air toxics that can cause asthma, lung, and heart disease,” said Kerri Johannsen, Energy Program Director with the Iowa Environmental Council. “Research shows that health impacts of transportation air pollution fall disproportionately on Black people and other people of color. Continuing to build out our roads at the cost of clean transit options is an environmental justice issue that is not addressed in any way by this plan.”
Finally, the groups urged the DOT to consider the need to address transportation-sector greenhouse gas emissions and the long-term environmental resiliency of Iowa’s transit systems.
“Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and passenger cars and trucks are responsible for 59% of transportation emissions,” noted Bondi. “We have seen in Iowa the devastation that occurs with increased heavy rain events and flooding that has caused severe damage to our transportation infrastructure year after year. Decisions about transportation investments must consider the dual goals of vastly reducing greenhouse gas emissions while building a system more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Transit, especially electric transit vehicles, can play a key role in that.”
The groups acknowledge that the DOT has competing funding priorities but urges the agency to re-evaluate the decision to neglect transit.
“The challenges before us as a state are complicated and systemic,” says Matt Russell, Executive Director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light. “But so too are the opportunities to invest in real solutions that serve all Iowans, grow our communities, and help our state lead our nation and world into a hopeful abundant future. We have a moral imperative to invest in shaping that future. If we only embrace the limitations of the challenges, we will institutionalize those challenges for decades to come.”
“We strongly believe that it is time to take a careful look at what Iowa is facing from a demographic, health, and environmental perspective and the role of transit in addressing these serious challenges in both urban and rural areas,” said Armstrong with the Street Collective. “Our budgets reflect our priorities and some portion of funding must be reallocated from road expansion to accessible, convenient transit options that will serve Iowans across the state into the future.”
Iowa Interfaith Power & Light (Iowa IPL) is a statewide organization mobilizing the religious community to become leaders in the movement for climate action. Founded in 2006, Iowa IPL empowers Iowans of faith and conscience to take bold and just action on climate change and is a part of the national Interfaith Power & Light movement.
The Street Collective is a nonprofit organization and community bicycle shop with the mission to champion transportation options that are accessible, safe and enjoyable for everyone. From education and advocacy to bike giveaways and trainings, the Collective lifts up walking, bicycling, rolling and riding transit. Our ethos is one of “DIT” or Do-It-Together. Collaborative action leads to collective change.
Urban Ambassadors serves as the hub for sustainable living in Greater Des Moines. The non-profit inspires and empowers community members to be sustainable in their homes, work and community. We have five focus areas: food, waste, transportation, built infrastructure and natural environment. Check our website, urbanambassadors.org, to learn more.